Cover image for How I accidentally joined the vast right-wing conspiracy (and found inner peace)
How I accidentally joined the vast right-wing conspiracy (and found inner peace)
Stein, Harry, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
viii, 274 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3569.T366 Z465 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Bestselling author and renowned ethics columnist Harry Stein didn't start out conservative. But somewhere along the way, real life--and fatherhood--gave him pause. In this passionate and provocative memoir, Stein recounts his personal journey from `70's liberal to `90's conservative--a journey that began with a few troubling questions he couldn't even share with his friends. Now the truth is out--in this daring, brilliantly argued, often savagely funny work that is bound to resonate with many who have witnessed the social revolution of the past thirty years and questioned even some of its outcome. Even secretly.

Harry Stein's left-liberal credentials were spotless. As a journalist in an industry populated by liberals, he carried the left-wing banner in his life and work. The transformation of Harry Stein began when he became a father. And nothing in his wildest dreams could have prepared him for what was to come....

First of all, the Right was beginning to sound right. Even worse, the Left was beginning to sound--and look--wrong. In a memoir both personal and political, Stein cuts through the distortions on both sides and shows how liberating it is to no longer have to pass as a correct thinker. Speaking to his peers and to his times, Stein fearlessly tackles such provocative topics as feminism, affirmative action, PC education, media, gay rights, and sexual McCarthyism. He tells what he really thinks, lies, and Bill his columns on Murphy Brown and day care were his personal "coming out"...the daily corruption of network news and big-time front pages...what has happened to a once-great newspaper, The New York Times.

For those who dare to entertain questions--even privately--Stein offers a few tests: Choose the most biased network anchor (Pop Quiz, page 110). Learn who would have been most likely to give up his seat on a Titanic lifeboat...(see page 47). How far have academic standards fallen since the nineteenth century? Take the test on page 233. Could you pass today?

Here are portraits in political courage--and cowardice. Unforgettable anecdotes about newsmakers Stein has known. It's all here and more in the witty, trenchant observations--and candid confessions--of a former liberal bound to incite, entertain, and maybe even change a few minds along the way.

How to tell if you've joined the vast right-wing conspiracy:

You hear someone talking about "morality" and you no longer instantly assume he must be a sexually repressed religious nut.
You're actually relieved that your daughter plays with dolls and your son plays with guns.
You sit all the way through Dead Man Walking and at the end still want the guy to be executed.
Christmas season rolls around and it hits you there may be a religious connection.
At your kids' back-to-school night, you are shocked to discover the only dead white male on your tenth-grader's reading list is Oscar Wilde.
And by the end of the night you realize the only teacher who shares your values teaches phys ed.
Much as you'd like to, you can't get yourself to believe that screwing around on one's wife is an addiction.

From the Hardcover edition.

Author Notes

Harry Stein has written for "Esquire", "The New York Times", "GQ", "Playboy", "New York", "Sports Illustrated", & many other publications. He has also written a column for "TV Guide" since 1992. His books include the nonfiction works "Eichmann in My Hands", "One of the Guys", "Ethics (and other Liabilities)", as well as the novels "Hoopla" & "The Magic Bullet". He lives in New York.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Rush Limbaugh likes to say that a conservative is a liberal who got mugged by reality. Stein is a perfect example of the type. As a student during the Vietnam-Watergate era, he demonstrated and agitated, and as a young journalist, he dug dirt and suppressed good news on Republicans. And why not? His side--the Left, liberalism--was that of virtue and truth. Well, he grew older, married, became a father, bought a suburban home--all the while pursuing a career with plenty of access to celebrities. Meanwhile, the adherents of feminism, affirmative action, abortion rights, gay rights, AIDS activism, and other good causes seemed to him to become rigid ideologues who would use any means deemed necessary to "win." What had happened to truth and justice? Stein's is another version of a familiar story, but his skills as a popular journalist ensure that his variation is magnetically readable, unstuffy, and entertaining as well as thoughtful and persuasive. Besides, how conservative can a guy really be if he still picks on Pat Buchanan? --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

The journey from liberal to conservative chronicled here by Stein is a journey already described by others such as Norman Podhoretz and David Horiwitz. Though thus predictable, Stein's account is nevertheless amusing. He relates personal anecdotes about growing up, raising children and relating to friends and colleagues, but also touches on current events, culminating in the sexual transgressions of Bill Clinton. The light tone and humorous prose eventually wear thin, however, and Stein sets up a straw man in his attacks on the Left. Essentially, Stein paints himself in his liberal days as a man with ideological blinders firmly in place, and he skewers liberals in general as if they all wore the same blinders. For example, in claiming that liberal psychology undermines personal responsibility by abjuring everyone from fault for everything, he presents an extremist position. Stein himself states at one point that extremists on both ends of the ideological spectrum deny "a fair hearing to alternative views on complex social issues"-yet he is guilty of the same error. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A left-wing journalist/novelist becomes a right-wing dad. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



It's all my wife's fault. I realize this may sound petty and, even worse, smacks of that cardinal sin of the age, a refusal to take personal responsibility. But--what can I tell you?--she's the one who introduced me to the universe of kids. And for me, as for so many others, that was the beginning of the  end. The beginning of the beginning was almost two years before: the spring evening in 1979 I first spotted her outside a movie screening--heart-stoppingly beautiful in a blue dress, head tilted back in laughter. At that moment, I was utterly at peace with my world. Impeccable liberal credentials in order. The old certitudes unquestioned. Lots of people who mattered in my business thought of me as a good guy, and my career was booming. A mere couple of Super Bowls later, under her influence, I was writing stuff that was not only eliciting hate mail from strangers but alienating old friends. How'd she do it? How'd she turn me into someone destined to be  reviled in The Village Voice as "a well-known asshole"--and, even more pathetic, actually reduced to finding solace in the words "well-known"? As a couple, we started out conventionally enough. When Priscilla arrived at an Indian restaurant on New York's Upper West Side for our first date, minus makeup and in sweater and jeans, she looked so different from the evening we'd met I was momentarily disappointed. But by the time the tandoori chicken was on the table, I was already impressed by her quirky humor and fierce critical intelligence. We were both grizzled veterans of the dating wars and before the evening's end confessed how sick we were of having to produce an entertaining version of our checkered past for each new romantic prospect, agreeing that, for all our supposed liberation, love had surely been much more blessedly simple, and probably more thrilling, in our grandparents' day. Yet it was a moment on our second date that left an even more enduring impression. I remember I was following Priscilla up the stairs to her apartment, and while studying the view I was telling her how many of my closest friends were women, going on about how I'd always found them easier to talk to than men because they're so much more open with their feelings, when she suddenly wheeled, flashing bemused incredulity. "That old line? Come on!" I hesitated, momentarily defensive, then cracked up. It's not precisely that what I was saying was untrue--I did have close women friends, and did find them easy to talk to--just that it also was a line, though I'd never thought of it in precisely those terms; one I'd slipped into conversations with new women lots of times before, always with satisfactory results. But here was this woman ready to argue the point. I probably should have ended it right there. This kind of contrarianism wasn't going to do me a damn bit of good--not in my circle. Not that any of this is meant to suggest that she, any more than I, was ready yet to step off the deep end politically. A Berkeley grad, she'd done her fair share of protesting during the glory years. When we met, she had a gay male roommate, and so was much involved in the particulars of that revolution, getting regular firsthand, blow-by-blow reports from the front. ("Actually," she notes, stopping in my office, "usually it was 'blow job by blow job.'") And, yes, much as she was even then given to mocking feminism's more ludicrous claims and intense self-seriousness--I recall her laughing over the sisterhood's veneration of Ruffian, "the gallant little filly" who had to be destroyed after injuring herself in a match race against the despised colt Foolish Pleasure--she very much saw herself as a feminist. She was, after all, a career woman, having moved from a consulting firm to a prestigious-sounding position in the movie business--East Coast story editor for Columbia Pictures, charged with scouting out new books and plays as potential films. Far more, she was a veteran of the sexual revolution, with all the battle scars to prove it. As, God knows, was I. In fact, before we go any further, let's pause for what the weasels in the press like to call "full disclosure." My wife says I include this chapter--dwelling as it does on my sexual past--only as a means of bragging. As such, she says, it registers as "pathetic." I have considered this carefully. There is some merit in her view. I include it anyway because, as I've informed her, there is a larger point to be made, even if at my own expense: that this notion that those of us who've moved right are prudes is malicious bunk. We loved sex in the sixties and seventies, we love it now. In fact--listening, Priscilla?--sometimes we love it even more because it's been with the same person for so long. In any case, what follows are excerpts from the transcript of my testimony had I ever been called to appear before an independent prosecutor's grand jury. Question: Mr. Stein, we'll begin by turning to something that  has come to our attention relating to certain events that occurred in  1969. Answer: Nineteen sixty-nine?! I was in college! Question: Exactly. And would it be accurate to say you had a girlfriend at that time? A Ms. Jane Mallory? Answer: I'm sorry, you would have to define the term "girlfriend." Question: For our purposes, we will accept the definition as set forth and enumerated during your deposition. That is, one of the opposite sex whom you saw on an average of at least once weekly with the intent to arouse or gratify. (Mr. Stein consults briefly with his attorney.) Answer: Would kissing be covered by this? And, if so, how would you define it? Question: Mr. Stein, was it not your understanding with Ms. Mallory that yours was to be an exclusive relationship? Answer: I have no specific recollection of that. Question: And do you not recall meeting a certain Ms. Barbara Schoenfeld on the New York subway during Christmas break, and do you not recall accompanying her to her parents' apartment where you could be alone? Do you doubt that your girlfriend would have regarded what you did there as "cheating"? Answer: What is your definition of "alone"? Question: I'd like to move on if we might to the time you spent in Paris. Do you recall that period? Answer: Paris, Texas? Question: France, covering most of 1976 through 1978. According to testimony and documentary evidence, you were working on an English-language newspaper there. Answer: That could be, I have no specific recollection. Excerpted from How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (And Found Inner Peace) by Harry Stein All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.